ENGLAND NETBALLER, STACEY FRANCIS
WSA SAT DOWN WITH ENGLAND NETBALLER, STACEY FRANCIS
For the majority of girls nowadays, picking up a netball happens in primary school, where High 5 netball has been developed. However, in some instances this is still not the case.
Stacey Francis first picked up a netball at the age of 14, where she joined a club outside of school which her friends attended. One of the key reasons she joined the club was due to extremely positive reviews on the coach, which to this day, Francis is still in contact with regularly. Francis enjoyed the fun and competitive environment and started to accelerate quite quickly. 19 years later, Stacey looks back at her decorated career. She has been in the English Rose senior squad for 11 years, 2x Commonwealth Games Bronze medallist, 2x Bronze World Cup medallist, represented Team Bath for 10 years and is in her 5th season for West Coast Fever, competing in the Suncorp Super Netball League in Australia.
When asked about how Stacey juggles England duty and living on the other side of the world, Francis explained how the pathway has evolved over the last 6 years to allow the most experienced athletes to play in Australia. “Playing in the Australian League has massive benefits. It has given me the opportunity to be a professional netballer. The financial offer of my contract and the quality of netball trumped the offers I had in the UK as netball is still in its infancy in England. Playing in Australia means we can learn and bring back new skills which has massive benefits and a big impact on results.” The pathway consists of three strands:
P1 – Full time England members
P2 – Roses based overseas – currently there are 7 squad members in Australia and 1 in New Zealand
P3 – Trial outside of the system
Francis proceeded to state that netball is night and day to when she started. “I was 16 when I first signed for a club. I had never been payed to play in England, but now there is a minimum payment for the English Super League teams and Roses are National Lottery funded.” In 2006, Stacey chose to study Sports Performance at Bath University after being talent identified as “someone who would be the future talent for the 2009 World Youth Cup.” Bath University was the only place running a full-time netball programme alongside studying at this time. Although the netballer is a huge advocate for pursuing off court ambitions and having a back-up plan, Stacey enjoys being able to focus her full attention to netball and believes the full-time programme is allowing girls to develop.
“I hope that the highlight of my career hasn’t been and gone yet” Francis stated. “Birmingham is my home town, so I want to go to the Commonwealth Games in 2022. I chose not to be available at the last CWG where they won gold, so I want to win it in my home city.” Stacey also wants to win the Suncorp SNL. “We have placed second, 2 out of the 4 seasons I have had with West Coast Fever. I am so motivated to go that one step further this year.” Francis recalled on last season’s narrow loss. “The whole season was a huge challenge emotionally and physically. The world was going through a pandemic and for the season to get off the ground, it was carried out in a hub situation. We moved our team to the opposite side of the country to Brisbane for 3 months in order to compete in a condensed season. In some weeks we were playing up to 3 games in 11 days, which was a huge challenge, on top of being away from creature comforts and playing on an injury the whole season.”
When asked whether there were any low points in her career, the English Rose pondered on the series of events that led to her stepping away from the programme and not putting herself in contention for the CWG (where England won gold). “I remember not being a very nice person in that environment and I didn’t appreciate the opportunity that it is to step on court and represent my country. Reaching that point was a real low point, but I had to do it for my mental and physical wellbeing. To do a full circle and step back into a red dress, be in contention to represent again and for it to mean so much more, I feel really privileged to have earnt that opportunity back.”
“The best advice I was given that changed my philosophy and mentality as an athlete was when you play a team sport, it’s very easy to go along and do the team things and play at your team mates intensity, but it’s really important to have clarity over your values as an individual. Know what your strengths are and bring the team along with you on the things you’re good at, but also draw from your team mates on the things you aren’t as good at.”